(Bloomberg) — House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan said Congress and a new president could still repeal President Barack Obama’s health care law after 2016, rejecting Democratic arguments that the measure is irreversible.
“I don’t think it can last,” Ryan said of the law in an interview recently with Bloomberg Television.
Ryan this week unveiled a budget plan that seeks to repeal the 2010 law known as Obamacare and would scale back the U.S. safety net in an effort to eliminate the deficit in 10 years. The House will vote on the proposal next week. House Democrats will release their alternative as soon as Monday, April 7.
The Republican budget proposal will serve as a contrast with Democrats’ fiscal priorities before the U.S. midterm election on Nov. 4. Senate Democratic leaders have said they plan to tie House members vying for Senate seats in Colorado, Montana and Louisiana to Ryan’s proposal.
“This is the fourth year we’ve passed a budget like this, fourth year we’ve said here’s how we plan on balancing the budget and paying off the debt,” Ryan said in advance of next week’s vote. Though it’s expected to be close, party leaders in the House say they’ve secured sufficient support to pass the measure, probably with only Republican votes.
Ryan and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray agreed in December on a two-year deal that sets top-line discretionary spending at $1.014 trillion for the 2015 fiscal year that starts Oct. 1. Ryan’s budget total, including mandatory spending on entitlement programs, including Medicare and Social Security, is $3.7 trillion.
Because of the deal, Republicans don’t have to prepare a budget, Ryan said, though “we think we should say what we believe in if we don’t like the direction the country’s headed.”
Democrats maintain that the enrollment the White House says passed seven million by the March 31 deadline shows Obamacare can’t be unwound. Ryan said he disagrees.
House Republicans, who have voted to repeal, defund or delay the health care law 55 times since taking over the chamber’s majority in 2011, are working to draft a replacement. That plan, which Ryan has been involved in creating, could be unveiled as soon as later this month.
“The architecture of this law is so fundamentally flawed that I think it’s going to collapse under its own weight,” said Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican. “And the sooner those of us who want true, real reform can show a better way forward, the faster we can repeal.”
Ryan said an alternative plan should remove the federal “command and lead in the health care system.”
His budget plan would boost defense spending, offset by cuts to non-military programs that could reduce spending on everything from regulatory agencies to national parks.
The starkest contrasts between Ryan and Democrats are on balance — Ryan wants to balance the U.S. budget in 10 years and Obama’s budget doesn’t — and on how deficit reduction would be achieved. Ryan envisions significant changes to entitlement spending, including cuts to food stamps and Medicaid that knit together the U.S. safety net.
Ryan has called for a fundamental reappraisal of the way the U.S. addresses poverty 50 years after President Lyndon Johnson declared a war on poverty — which created what’s now 92 anti-poverty programs costing $799 billion annually.
His budget would keep federal Pell grants for college study capped at $5,730 and tighten eligibility. He’d also make Congress appropriate all the money for the grants annually.
Democrats say that would cut aid to students as tuition continues to rise faster than inflation. Student loan debt has ballooned to $1.2 trillion as families borrow to cover the costs.
Ryan said Republicans are worried that increases in federal student aid have contributed to colleges raising costs.
“So the problem is, are we feeding tuition or are we getting at the root cause of this tuition inflation?” he said. “That’s the argument we’re trying to make. Instead of just doing more of the same and getting the same predictable outcome, why don’t we try and get at the root cause of why does college cost so much in the first place?”
Congressional Democrats have been quick to criticize the proposal. Representative Barbara Lee of California, noting that April 4, 2014, was the 46th anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King Jr., said yesterday the budget cuts proposed by Ryan are “exactly the opposite of what Dr. King stood for.”
Representative Chris Van Hollen, the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee, said the measure should be taken seriously even if it never becomes law because it “tells the American public exactly what Republicans in Congress would do to the country if they have the power to impose their will.”
Ryan’s budget doesn’t specifically back a tax-code revision proposed by Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, who’s blocked from another term as head of the panel by Republican rules and will retire after this session of Congress.
The budget panel doesn’t write tax laws, Ryan said, though he said lawmakers should “continue this conversation” begun by Camp’s proposal.
Ryan, a senior member of the Ways and Means panel and his party’s 2012 vice presidential nominee, is seen as a front-runner to become Ways and Means chairman. Texas Republican Kevin Brady, a member of the panel, is also interested in the job.
Ryan deferred when pressed on whether he wants the job as chairman of the tax-writing panel. “It’s just too early to get into that,” he said.
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